News | 21 September 2023
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Dear Delaware: Wellington City Libraries’ new pen pal programme

Over 240 people across Wellington have signed up for Wellington City Libraries’ new pen pal programme and are busy exchanging letters with their new friends from the USA.

Red letterbox with an american flag on it on top of a table in a library.

The programme, a partnership between Wellington City Libraries (WCL) and a cluster of libraries across the state of Delaware, USA, came about through a chance email exchange. 

Tess Mehonoshen, Library Specialist at WCL, was contacted by a librarian in Delaware with an unrelated query. The two developed a plan together and after working out a few logistics, launched the programme in May 2023.

It has proven to be really popular with Wellingtonians, says Tess, who has a few ideas about why that might be. Over 240 children and adults have signed up so far to take part, a number which exceeded expectations.

“We’ve gotten a lot of really nice feedback. People of all ages are super enthusiastic and excited to write letters, which is so lovely to see, both here and in Delaware.”

With the fast pace of life these days and the pressure that pace can create, the slowness of writing and waiting for a letter feels like a welcome antidote, says Tess.

“I was quite surprised that we got a lot of people in their 20s and 30s. It’s something you did a bit as a kid, but you never get around to do it anymore. People love having to slow down and that there’s no pressure to reply straight away.”

Tess believes it gives a little taste of how life used to be before we had technology at our fingertips.

“It makes you think, wow, people had to communicate like this all the time. Imagine having to wait a month to get a reply.”

Letter with 'Dear Delaware' written on top in cursive writing.

Writing letters is a different way of getting to know someone than we may be used to, but can lead to really meaningful relationships over time, for kids and adults both, says Tess. 

“You lose that feeling that everything needs to be immediate, and you’re not trawling through their photos like you might with social media. That’s why a lot of people with kids like it, because it’s a totally different way of getting to know someone. Lots of kids say they just want to make friends with someone on the other side of the world.”

The programme is in the early stages, and Tess encourages people to sign up if they are interested in making a new friend across the (roughly 9000) miles!

“People can join any time. We’ll pair you with a participant of similar age and interests from Delaware. You’ll be notified via email of who your pen pal is and what their interests are. Then, just write your letter and bring it to the library – we’ll take care of it from there and you’ll be notified when to pick up your pen pal’s response.

“As long as people are interested in participating, we’ll keep going. I don’t see it stopping any time soon.”

Fun facts about Delaware

  • Delaware is a state nestled on the East Coast of the United States on the Atlantic Ocean and, like Wellington, has many wonderful beaches.
  • For the bird lovers out there, Delaware’s official bird is the Delaware Blue Hen!
  • Delaware was the first state to sign the U.S. Constitution, so its nickname is the First State.
  • The state tree is the American holly and the state flower is the peach blossom!
  • In 1610 explorer Samuel Argall named the bay and river after Virginia’s governor, Lord De La Warr, which resulted in the name Delaware!

The programme is open to children (5+) and adults. Anyone looking to find out more or sign up can go to Anyone over 15 can sign up via the online registration form. Children between 5-15 are asked to come in and join at your local branch to make sure we get parental permission signed off. For children, ages will be matched to within two years (plus or minus).